Call to keep county's minor roads clear this winter

Councillors say Lancashire's minor roads should be routinely treated during winter.
Councillors say Lancashire's minor roads should be routinely treated during winter.

More should be done to keep Lancashire’s rural roads clear during winter, a committee of councillors has said.

Lancashire County Council’s Internal Scrutiny Committee recommended that the authority offers an external contract to provide the service – because its own resources are being taken up treating the county’s priority roads.

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But so-called secondary routes account for almost 60 percent of the highways network in Lancashire. Currently, they are treated only during “prolonged periods of sub-zero temperatures” – and only during daylight hours.

The overnight focus is on keeping the main roads clear for the morning rush hour.

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Committee member David Whipp told highways bosses: “In conditions of snow and ice, the treatment of [rural] routes is paramount – residents are very often stranded. But the council does not have the capacity to undertake gritting because drivers have been out the previous night.”

County Cllr Whipp urged the authority to offer a contract to clear secondary routes – a call which was supported by the rest of the committee.

But Group Manager for Highways, Daniel Herbert, warned that the ad hoc nature of the work might not attract much outside interest. An existing snow clearance contract had to be extended last year, because there were insufficient bids to take it over when it was put back out to tender.

Cabinet member for highways, Keith Iddon, told the committee that he was looking to “enhance” the service offered by the council in any way he could.

“We do need to look at the rural areas, because people are isolated and they can get cut off,” County Cllr Iddon said. He added that he would investigate the possibility of working with farmers and contractors to use their vehicles for gritting in rural areas.

The committee heard that the county council does sometimes receive help from district authorities, by enlisting refuse collection workers to assist with gritting during the course of their rounds.

And County Cllr Iddon – who has been trained to operate a gritting lorry himself – paid tribute to the highways staff who had worked to keep all of Lancashire’s main roads clear during last year’s “severe” winter.

“By the time you got to the end of the route, you had to start again because the rain had washed all the salt away,” he said. It’s a difficult job and you don’t know until you do it. It made me proud to be the cabinet member.”